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W&L’s Grajzl Talks Real-World Economics in Recent Workshop Earlier this month, economics professor Peter Grajzl gave an online presentation for the University of Oxford titled "A machine-learning history of English case law and legal ideas before the Industrial Revolution."

Grajzl-Peter-234x350 W&L’s Grajzl Talks Real-World Economics in Recent WorkshopPeter Grajzl, Ehrick Kilner Haight Sr. Professor of Economics

On Feb. 2, Washington and Lee University’s Peter Grajzl, Ehrick Kilner Haight Sr. Professor of Economics, gave an online presentation for the University of Oxford titled “A machine-learning history of English case law and legal ideas before the Industrial Revolution.” During the event, Grajzl joined Peter Murrell, professor of economics at the University of Maryland, to present their work that applies machine-learning methods to a comprehensive corpus of 52,949 reports of cases heard in England’s high courts before 1765.

At W&L, Grajzl’s research focuses on comparative institutional economics, law and economics, and political economy. He joined W&L in 2009 and teaches courses in introductory economics, microeconomic theory, comparative institutional economics and mathematical methods for economics.

Grajzl has published extensively on a range of topics about the emergence, functioning and impact of different legal, political and economic institutions and modes of governance, as well as cultural norms and ideas.

“Why and how modern economic growth started in England has been a question of enduring interest to economists, historians and other social scientists,” Grajzl said. “Prior research suggests that developments in political, legal and economic institutions, which increased the security of property and contractual rights, certainly played an important role. However, the full story of England’s institutional development remains incompletely understood. This is particularly true of case law, viewed as the defining characteristic of the English legal family.”

The Feb. 2 talk stemmed from an article Grajzl and Murrell co-authored for Cambridge University Press in August 2020 titled, “A machine-learning history of English case law and legal ideas prior to the Industrial Revolution I: generating and interpreting the estimates.”

The entire article is free to read here.

During the Oxford presentation, Grajzl and Murrell discussed the methodology behind identifying potential application areas of research methods in socio-legal, doctrinal legal,historical legal and economic research.

“Our research offers a new interpretation of the institutional changes surrounding the Financial Revolution and adds quantitative precision to the debates about the emergence of precedent-based reasoning as a fundamental element of English law-making,” said Grajzl.

In his classes at W&L, Grajzl uses different aspects of his research to teach his students real-world economics.

“I strive to offer students a perspective and insight into the economic and wider social significance of institutional phenomena such as insecurity of property rights, lack of quality judicial enforcement and government corruption,” he said.

Grajzl also features research that exposes students to quantitative techniques and modes of reasoning that allow them to better understand the world around them.

“Because I like to learn new analytical techniques that allow me to ask new questions or offer new answers to existing questions, this research has combined a variety of my interests,” Grajzl said.

In the coming months, Grajzl plans to present his research in multiple seminars and other professional venues. He is also working on related projects on law, legal systems and culture that arose from the already completed research.

In addition to his position at W&L, Grajzl is a research network fellow at CESifo in Munich, Germany, and a non-resident visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and the University of Maryland, College Park. He was awarded teaching awards from both the University of Maryland and Central European University, where he was an assistant professor between 2005 and 2009.

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